Having two is sometimes better than having one, wouldn’t you agree? Would you believe me if I told you that you have two brains? (Right now your brain is probably sending a signal telling you to ask, “What?”)…But hear me out.
Your brain is located in your head attached atop your spinal cord, that’s the obvious one. But your body also has a “second brain”, which is located down in your belly. This is called the enteric nervous system. This is what is responsible for that “butterflies in the stomach” feeling you sometimes get when you’re nervous.
The brain and the spinal cord make up the central nervous system. This system interprets signals from other parts of your body (touching something hot and reacting, raising your hand to blow your nose when it’s runny, etc.).
The peripheral nervous system (I know that’s a lot of systems to keep track of… but keep reading) is linked to the central nervous system and is responsible for moving the signals throughout the body. The enteric nervous system is a part of the peripheral nervous system, which, as said previously, is connected to the central nervous system. So when you are anxious, stressed, or get nauseous feelings in your gut, it can have a negative effect on your mental health.
What is very interesting about your second brain, or enteric nervous system, is that it is unique from other areas of the peripheral nervous system, acting separately from the central nervous system and sending a greater number of messages to the central nervous system than it receives. Thus the enteric nervous system does have influence on a person both physically and mentally.
Physicians and scientists have discovered that the enteric nervous system possesses the same neurotransmitters that are found in our brains. Neurotransmitters (norepinephrine, serotonin, glutamate, and dopamine) are the chemicals that allow the transmission of signals from one neuron to the next. As a result of this discovery, it has to be recognized that there is a reason and an actual foundation to our gut feelings and the reactions they cause in our bodies. Not to mention that 95% of all the serotonin that is found in the body is in your stomach and intestinal area and the nerve cells located here use this neurotransmitter to send signals back to the brain (this is why you avoid eating specific foods that you know will cause gas, indigestion, stomach pain, etc.).
There is still a lot that needs to be studied and learned regarding our second brain. However, the information that is currently known does help. We can use our mind to overcome digestive problems, and alternately if we can calm or cure digestive problems, it can alleviate mental problems.
So the next time you have a gut feeling about something, listen to it. It’s probably your second brain sending you an important message.